Combustible Celluloid
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With: Marshall Allman, Claire Holt, Tania Raymonde, Justin Welborn, Jenny Littleton
Written by: Steve Taylor, Ben Pearson, Donald Miller, based on a book by Donald Miller
Directed by: Steve Taylor
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexuality, drug and alcohol content, and some language
Running Time: 106
Date: 03/13/2012

Blue Like Jazz (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Sour Notes

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In terms of character and themes, this coming-of-age story lurches about in a knowing display of cuteness, and the result is something a good deal less than it could have been.

Don (Marshall Allman) lives in Texas with his single mom (Jenny Littleton) and is an active member of his church. But when he learns that his mom has been having an affair with the youth pastor, he hits the road for Reed College in Oregon. There, he hopes to find himself anew, among the liberal, unique, and artistic student body. He meets a cynical, wise lesbian, Lauryn (Tania Raymonde, also in the wonderful The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle), and a fellow dressed up as the Pope (Justin Welborn), and falls for a cute blonde activist, Penny (Claire Holt). Over the course of a year, Don tries many things (tall bikes, Malaysian cocktail tennis, etc.), but it's not until the year-end blow-out party that an unexpected ceremony helps him find his niche.

To start off, the main character makes his first big decision based on an overreaction, and most of his dramatic arc springs from similar situations. Then, when he first arrives at school, he's shy and full of wonder, but within a few scenes, he has suddenly turned outgoing, bold, and daring. Likewise, the dialogue -- adapted by director Steve Taylor, original author Donald Miller, and co-writer Ben Pearson -- seems more intent on creating nifty little quips than in capturing any kind of emotional journey or finding connections between characters. In the end, whatever kind of messages the movie is trying to convey about religion or spirituality is ultimately muddled.
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